Archive for the ‘Real estate’ Category

Ahhhh, yes, dear reader, I finally got all the previously-entangling bullshit out of the way and was looking forward to a restful day of piecing together my road trip plans. I needed a small camp stove and so I went out and got one, leaving that to be the last little piece of equipment I would require.

And, as soon as I was home, and had all my kit scattered around on the living room floor so as to arrange its optimal Tetris configuration into my backpack, I started to get that sensation. That odd sensation that “things are looking up, I really hope nothing happens now…”

Queue the music from Aliens, when Ripley realizes that she is in the same room with facehuggers skittering around. Yes, the high pitched squeaky violin sounds that build into a creepy crescendo; something is off to stage right and about to jump on the unsuspecting protagonist.

AND then a knock at my door. It’s the old lady from downstairs. Every time I see her, I hear that music from Aliens. And once again there she is, and she tells me there is water coming from her ceiling.

Now I have been back a full week at this point and this is the first I have heard of it, but maybe it has simply taken that long for it to make its way into the nooks and crannies and get through to her apartment below. But anyhow, it’s leaking from the toilet pipe because it’s got that lovely smell to it. Just fucking brilliant.

So now, I really MUST fucking abandon my epic road trip plans to epic digging up and redoing the plumbing AGAIN for the SECOND fucking time because the moron who I paid before to do it right the second fucking time didn’t do it right the second fucking time.

Now I know why Chilenos don’t want to renovate old places, now I know why, when dumbass ExpatBob went gleefully marching off in his own direction while the locals stood dumbstruck, exactly why they were dumbstruck. “Stupid gringo,” they thought, “wait a year and his toilet will be leaking onto his neighbor’s head.”

Why the hell is it that the guys who built this place made plumbing that lasted 100 years and the guy who did it last year out of indestructible never-rotting never-rusting plastic can’t even make it last 12 months???

But no, off I went thinking, “Stupid Chilenos! You’ll see! Such a great deal I got on this place and with just a bit of investment, it will be awesome! You are such fools to pass up this kind of cash cow!”

Awesome toilet leaks, for fucking sure.

I wonder how Chile isn’t bursting at the seams with its own sewage, really.

RIP road trip. I wonder if I will even have the time to get this shit (literally) properly contained before I leave.

I also wonder why the Gods punish me in this particular way– if you read back on past accounts, it is ALWAYS a plumbing disaster that ALWAYS derails my most epic plans, ALWAYS at the last possible moment. The Gods are, literally, shitting on my plans. Using my own shit, no less.

SOSAS

Posted: March 19, 2015 in Life, Real estate, Stupidity, Travel
Tags: , , , ,

Same Old South American Shit (SOSAS) hooray for fun acronyms.

I came here to do a few small select things.

  • Remove WifeBob from the Chilean medical insurance policy.
  • Get the car’s paperwork renewed for another year.
  • Go on an awesome road trip through Patagonia.
  • Pack up my things into storage and rent the Volcano Lair out as a furnished short-term rental.

Even the best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry. We are, dear reader, once again in South America…

Let’s start with the first simple thing. I contacted my medical insurance rep months ago to ask how I might have WifeBob removed from the policy since she no longer wants/needs it. “Oh, all we need is your signature,” I was told, and so that’s what I went on. Months later, here I am in Chile to meet and sign, and “Oh, we need your divorce certificate.” Gee, would have been nice to have known that when I asked months ago, right? So I would have time to get a copy and bring it down with me? So now, in order to take care of this crap, it will cost me several days which may eat into my road trip and possibly make it a no-go.

Then the car. I keep, in my opinion, one of the best-maintained little shitboxes in all of Chile. Yes it often sits unused for long periods of time but I keep it in such a high degree of operational fitness that after 6 months of non-use, all I need to do is turn the key and it comes back to life. And so, I figured, it should be a piece of cake to take it into the inspection station, get my papers, and off we go on our road trip. Not so! I was rejected flat-out for “visible blue smoke” which does not exist. Not only am I mechanically inclined enough to know that this is bullshit, but I took it to a mechanic for further inspection, whereupon we both scratched our heads as to what they could have possibly seen to make them think it was so bad that they failed it outright and did not even bother to give it the emissions test. Oh, and they also failed it for having improperly-aligned headlights, even though nothing has changed since last year when it passed with flying colors and perfect emissions. Weird.

So anyhow, I have to “fix the problems” and then bring it back for re-testing. Which will eat into potential road trip time and may make it a no-go.

As to the possibility of the road trip at all at this point, it teeters on the edge.

The only potentially good thing in this little to-do list is the prepping of the place for rental, which is really just a matter of boxing a few things up, upgrading the locks on a closet, and handing the keys over to my chosen AirBnB rental manager (who I have dealt with in the past with excellent results). But, alas, he is on vacation right now and won’t be back until about a week before I leave. So if the road trip is delayed I may miss my window to do my dealings with RentalBob. In my opinion doing the rental stuff is more important than the road trip, and so the road trip plans are being squeezed from two directions.

Ahhhhh, life in South America. It is content to leave you alone completely, until you decide to do things.

In other news, I learned that since October, our citizenship file in Uruguay has finally passed muster (2+ years of waiting) and is now in the hands of the bureaucrat who will actually make our passports happen. Whatever that means. Nobody who is supposed to know seems to know, and they don’t answer emails or phone calls. The only information we have is that the next step should take 8 months (since October 2014), which means that in theory, in April, if all goes to plan, I can wrangle someone who will give me my goddamned passport. But, Uruguayan time being Uruguayan time, 8 months really means another 4 years. There is actually a formula for this:

Let Z = real time in months. Let Y = time promised by Uruguayan in months.

Z = Y (6 +- 48000)

Ahhhh, when one thinks that one is done with something in Uruguay, just when you think you can finally relax, one is always slapped in the face by the turds of slothful, knuckledragging mouthbreathers from the shallow end of the gene pool.

I present to you another chapter of the Neverending Story of Uruguay that I thought I had left last year.

MexicanBob’s family has been living at the old beach house for months. They have been very good at paying the bills and keeping up with things there. Up to, and including, the payment of various and sundry bills and utilities including the alarm.

Not that this is any of my concern, as the house is no longer mine, BUT, it’s in Uruguay, where things are never done, never finished, and never correct. In communist Uruguay, house lives on YOU! What a country!

So, because the tenants were paying the alarm bill, which was previously never automatically debited from my credit card as it was requested many many times to the point where I gave up trying years ago, suddenly the alarm company decided that it would charge the year’s bill automatically (to the tune of nearly USD$600.00). This is after MexicanBob paid the bill in cash.

I saw the charge on my bank statement and inquired about the situation. Seems it was double-paid and I never should have been charged. Bless their hearts, the MexicanBobs been attempting to rectify the situation. So they went in and explained what happened. “No problem,” said the alarm company, “we will set up a credit refund and it will show up in his account in a few days.”

So a few days pass and no refund. MexicanBob goes in again. “No problem,” said the alarm company, “semana que viene (next week NOOOOOO NOT SEMANA QUE VIENE PLEASE NOT SEMANA QUE VIENE those words are the fucking curse of curses!!!) it should show up. If it does not, please let us know.”

So a few more days pass, and a week, and no credit shows up in my bank account. Que sorpresa!!!!!!!!!

MexicanBob goes in again, to find out what is going on. Nobody at the alarm company seems to recall any requests for a refund. At this point, MexicanBob goes postal.

“No problem,” says the alarm company, “We will issue a check for the refund. It will come in from Montevideo in a few days.”

MexicanBob, knowing the score, asked them a pertinent question: “How will you know what name to put on the check?” to which AlarmBob responded, “Oh, they send us a blank check and then we write your name on it.” MexicanBob smelled bullshit but left without murdering anyone. A blank check for $600 is going to arrive ANYWHERE near where it is meant to be sent? HA! HAHAHHAAAAAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHA  HAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAA! The concept fills me with mirth. As you can see.

Days later, MexicanBob actually received a phone call, notifying him that the check had arrived. He asked them what name was on the check, and AlarmBob said it was in the name of WifeBob. To which MexicanBob goes postal again, as he has no way of cashing or depositing said check, and WifeBob will probably never return to Uruguay unless it is to sign the bulldozing orders for the beach house.

To date, the refund issue remains unresolved. And it began months ago.

Further notes…

Said alarm company called MexicanBob to inquire if everything was OK because the alarm was going off, only that it was not; it was going off at the neighbor’s house. “Isn’t this (neighbor’s house)?” asked the alarm technician…

“No, it is not.” Lord help the neighbors if they ever have a break-in.

Then the MexicanBobs had another scheduled technical visit from the alarm company, whose truck arrived at the neighbor’s house. MexicanBob went over to explain to them that they were in the wrong place. “Oh, it says here in the GPS system that it is attached to (neighbor’s house).”

“No, it is not.”

Keep in mind that it has always been a separate structure on a separate lot and since its construction years ago, we have been using the same alarm company and only now is it somehow magically listed as attached to another structure.

Gee, I am so glad I decided to leave that dreadful place so I wouldn’t have to deal with the native morons anymore!

Seriously, no wonder Punta Del Este gets robbed bare every single year at Christmastime. If this is how the security companies really operate, when you are on top of them daily?

 

We finally got our floors finished in the Santiago crack den. What we have been working on for the past month, day in day out, is the complete restoration of ancient and poorly-maintained parquet floor, all loose, mostly shaken free through multiple earthquakes over the past few decades, and basically left to rot.

Before

The previous owners tried to reglue them with varying methods which included plaster and roofing tar. Which we had to chip out with a chipping hammer. Since the floors were put in original with the building, the concrete floor was sort of “molded into” them and they had metal staples holding them into the concrete as well as their original coating of asphalt on the bottoms. All of which had to come out. Some of the planks were in good enough shape we simply had to clean them off and re-glue them. So we had to come up with a numbering system to catalog them onto the floor so that we could batch-process the scraping and put them back in order so the metal staples and concrete footing fit properly.

At the end of each day we looked like coal miners.

Underneath the planks we found a nice combination of human and pet dander, compressed into square cakes, which reeked of ass and occasionally ass with cat piss. We filled 8 shop-vac bags with this substance. Truly revolting.

Scum cake on left, clean on right

We found a local company which custom-fabricates parquet flooring, and we had them make 6.5 square meters of new planks for us to replace the ones which were too thin, too broken, or too poorly maintained that we could not recycle them. This company, Lash, did an excellent job and did it on time and on budget. What a concept! And they are nice guys to boot!

During the repairs

We hired a pulidor to come in and do the sanding and varnishing once we were done with the re-gluing. It took over a week to get it done, partly because of “mañana” and partly because we kept finding loose or “too thin” planks during the sanding which had to be re-glued or replaced, which kept throwing the whole process off. I was starting to get irritated with them but during our conversations while waiting for varnish to dry, my respect for them really grew. To add to the good impression I got, our circuit breaker kept blowing out under the heavy load of the sanding machine, and instead of throwing their hands up and going home like Uruguayans would have done, they rewired the circuit breaker so it would work right and kept on working.

We’re out waiting in the hall, with bags of sawdust and machinery and things that cannot go back into the apartment just yet, and the building’s mayordomo comes down and scolds us about the stuff in the hall. The door is open and the fumes are thick, and it’s obvious we are working and can’t put anything back into the apartment until we are done. Me and PulidorBob roll our eyes, he can spot a Neighborhood Nazi too. “We’re working,” he tells her. PulidorBob and his brother and his wife have been coming and going for a week at this point, staying late to get the job done and revising their work to make sure that our old poorly-maintained floor gets a new life and doesn’t look like crap.

This of course gets us joking once she is gone, about how me and WifeBob can stay out in the hall in a tent tonight while the final varnish coat dries, and how that ought to make the Mayordomo happier than happy.

“What’s that word, the one for people who occupy property that isn’t theirs, and the law protects them from being kicked out?” I ask. Somewhere in my head there is a word like “locals” or “lugareños” or something similar.

PulidorBob doesn’t know; the concept seems absurd to him, “Sin verguenza?” (without shame)

“Excellent, but there’s a specific word for them. Maybe it’s just a local Uruguayo word. Pobrecitos who can’t be moved.”

PulidorBob doesn’t know. So we start thinking of names to call ourselves once we move out into the hallway. “Los Indigentes” gets plenty of laughs.

We started talking about Uruguay and our experiences there, and PulidorBob was absolutely floored (no pun intended) when we told him about BPS and how you must, by law, pay social security tax on your own labor should you decide to do something like paint your own house. “Viva Chile,” I say. “Si, viva Chile.”

A couple of weeks ago when I rode with the delivery guy from the parquet factory to our crack den, we were talking about Chile and how immigrants are coming, and how he thinks it is a good thing. DeliveryBob told me that he spent an entire year traveling, living, and working in all the other countries in South America, just to see how things were. He said when he got back to Chile he made up his mind to stay, because all of the alternatives are lousy. I don’t blame him at this point.

Before the varnish

When the job is finally done, and PulidorBob and I look over everything, I can tell he’s not entirely happy. There were still a few trouble spots where the planks were too thin, due to 70 years of foot traffic and poor maintenance and poor sanding. He asks me if I want to adjust the price.

I am blown away. Someone actually taking pride in their work, and feeling shame for stuff that didn’t turn out as ideal as he expected? In South America??? This would NEVER happen in Uruguay.

I tell him that no, it is no problem. Considering that he and his folks went the extra mile and were in there chipping out cement with chisels to get the new floor planks to fit, and spent several extra days making sure the stuff got done, the price we agreed upon was reasonable. This seemed to make him feel better. Whatever, if a few spots need some putty or patching, we’ll deal with it. If you look at the before and after photos, you’ll see what I mean. We can now walk from end to end of the crack den without stepping on moving floor planks or stepping into a pit of ass-and-cat-piss-dander-cake.

Finished floor

Today was an interesting day. We started cleaning out the new old apartment. On one hand I like doing things like this: you work with your hands, you get to wear your overalls, and you get to see results. Granted it’s not as efficient as delegating the work to a peon, but it’s nice once in a while to do the stuff and get it done, and watch the phoenix rise from the ashes.

In this case, we’re cleaning out 40 years of not-been-cleaned chainsmoke residue, settled Santiago smog soot, and lord knows what else. We’re serial renovators and global slumlords. We like to find deals in gentrifying neighborhoods, get them on the cheap, and sell them for a profit after we pimp them out. Some folks think we’re nuts, but this isn’t our first rodeo. And we’ve done worse.

“Hey, honey, what kind of drugs can you smoke off the end of a butter knife?” I ask WifeBob.

“Oh God, I don’t know. Don’t tell me,” she answers, and, being unable to resist the curiosity, “What did you find?”

“I think I found their paraphernalia. Some burned butter knives. Oh, and here’s their pipe,” as I extracted a 6-inch tube of plastic, cloth rubber-banded over the end, from its bed in the inch of dust above the medicine cabinet. “Well, this is better than the first crack house we’ve owned!”

All in all the place is in remarkably good shape, structurally. But it was used as a college flop-house for some time, and has probably literally not been cleaned for decades. There’s beautiful hardwood under all that caked-on greasy soot.

Some people don’t have the stomach for it. We almost lost it a few times, scrubbing someone else’s petrified vomit off of a wall in the corner. Who leaves that stuff? Seriously? Oh, yeah… crack head college students. I won’t even mention the mystery substances I had to scrub from around the toilet.

Nothing says love like taking over scrubbing puke, feces, and pubes-caked-in-urine-residue for your significant other while they fight their gag reflex and get some fresh air.

The whole time, we were both discussing the merits of advice from my brother-in-law’s Abuelita from Ecuador. She used to drill into her kids:

“It’s OK to be poor, but you don’t have to be dirty.”

Good advice, and it’s true. Always made us wonder why some people in impoverished areas don’t seem to mind sitting around, sometimes literally, in their own shit. That can’t be pleasant. Go wash off, man. We’ve seen areas where people don’t have two pennies to rub together, but you could eat off their floors, even the dirt floors, and they were clean and wore clean clothes. Then we’ve seen others where you wonder if these people have ever taken a bath or washed their clothes, or even know how.

Between our “dirty” apartment and our “clean” apartment, which we have for one more week, we saw a crazy old man, stark naked, wandering around in the street. Folks kept their distance, but despite the fact that there was a park full of families right next to where he was, no cops came to take him away. Maybe they figured he wasn’t harming anyone, so let him dance like a loon in the middle of the street.

Good news, Chile has Tempurpedic beds. We went to their showroom earlier today, on a Saturday, during their advertised hours. They were actually open. The shopkeeper was knowledgeable and pleasant, and patient enough to get our bizarre international credit card purchase set up straight. She gave us advice on directions to go where we were going next. The directions turned out to be correct. The bed will be delivered on Monday. For less than the cost of our Queen size spring mattress in Uruguay, we can get a King size Tempur memory foam mattress in Chile.

Flawless experience.

Then we bought a vacuum for the house. The plug on the cord was the right kind. When we plugged it in, it worked.

We also went furniture shopping.

Did I mention we did all of this in one day?

Chile kicks ass.

Non-residents and non-citizens can buy real estate in Chile with few problems. The process is straightforward, which is probably why there are few reliable sources with complete information.

The first and foremost thing you will need to do is get a Chilean RUT number (taxpayer ID number, don’t let the name scare you). This is done by finding the closest office of the SII (Chilean version of the IRS) and going there with:

1. A printout of this form, filled out with the parts for your name and address (an address in Chile) and the box “Solicititud RUT” checked. Nothing more should be needed on this form.

2. A photocopy of your passport.

That’s it. It costs nothing, and it took me and WifeBob 20 minutes to get it done, most of which was spent waiting for our number to come up. When you are done, they give you a temporary ID paper with your RUT number, which you use in the meantime. They told us that they would mail the cards to us, but this is not the case; you actually pick them up at the same office in a week or so; sometimes they can have them done in 3 days but hey, it’s a bureaucracy. In the meantime, your paper works as your RUT card, and is 100% valid to use for real estate purchases.

Note: they would not let me pick up WifeBob’s card even though I was carrying her passport and temporary RUT paper. You need a power of attorney for this, or you need to drag your woman into the office by her hair. I recommend using a club to subdue her first.

When you find your ideal property, you will meet with the broker or seller, and draw up a Promesa de Compraventa. This is the sale agreement. You will be required to put down a good-faith deposit, which may be as high as 10%. Sometimes a promissory note will work; ask your broker or lawyer.

Once the Promesa de Compraventa is done, your lawyer should do the due diligence of looking up the property register and making sure that the deed is clean, there are no debts owed on the property, etc. This can take a few days or it can take a month, depending on the speed of said lawyer. Once the bill of health comes back clean, you move onto the next step, which is the official contract.

I should mention at this point that some brokers may be fearful about using the RUT paper instead of the RUT card, but it is indeed 100% legal and proper. It has been done and shall continue to be done. If they are being difficult, have your lawyer reassure them.

Now you should be trying to figure out a way to get your money into Chile. Normally foreigners cannot open a bank account so this presents some problems. Fortunately lawyers can act as escrow agents with the proper bank forms, however one should be warned that unless you trust your lawyer implicitly you are taking an unnecessary risk; the Notarias are held in strict regulation by the government and the lawyers less so. You are safer getting the Notary to do the escrow service for you instead.

The lawyer or notary will need to fill out a form for the bank declaring what the deal is with this incoming money and what it is to be used for. You the buyer will have to draft a letter to the bank detailing the source of the funds. For example:

Date: today
To: Banco Blanco Chile
Re: Funds transfer to NotableNotary from ExpatBob

Dear sirs:

The funds we are sending are for the purchase of an apartment in Santiago, 123 Happy Lane, priced at $1 pesos Chilenos (presently $.005 USD). We are including additional funds to pay for notary fees and exchange rate losses, for a total of $3 US Dollars.

This money has been in our possession for a number of years, and originated from salary and savings of both myself and my wife, WifeBob (RUT 12345, PSP USA 67890), and are stored in The Bank of Bernank. All taxes have been paid in the USA for these funds.

If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact me.

Signed,

ExpatBob (RUT 67890, PSP 12345)

After you move your money into the escrow, it comes back out as a bank check, or “vale vista” which, when signed, is considered as good as cash.

The lawyers will draw up the official contract and meet with you at a Notaria along with the seller and any requisite brokers. The Notary is the acting escrow for everything. They take in the contract, which all parties sign, and the signed vale vista. You also sign and receive a copy of a document which lays out what they got from everyone and what they are expected to carry out, basically a receipt for all parties.

It is then the Notary’s job to register the deed with the proper authorities. They then bring back the receipt of the change-of-ownership, conveying it to the new owner, and release the vale vista to the seller. This process can take a day or it can take a week depending on holidays, efficiency or lack thereof, etc.

The buyer is expected to pay on average a 2% commission to the seller’s agent.
Lawyer and notary fees may vary, but the whole process shouldn’t cost more than USD$2000-3000.

Tips:

  • Always make sure that in addition to property taxes, there are no debts outstanding from unpaid bills or “gastos comunes” and make sure it is part of the contract that the utilities are all on and working when you get the keys in your hand.
  • Get a statement from the former owner of all the bills and account numbers to said utilities, or at least request a copy of the most recent bill, to make the transition easier for changing over the account names (which you don’t *technically* have to do). At least make sure that you can keep up with the payment of the bills (via their account numbers) if the next round of them fails to appear.
  • Send extra into your escrow if you can, to cover attorney fees and loss to exchange rate conversion.
  • Make sure you have a power-of-attorney drafted so that your lawyer can deal with any documentation or incidental things in your stead.
  • Also make sure that the seller has a power-of-attorney set up, and you know who to contact, should they disappear on vacation in the middle of the deal and leave you without keys to the place, like ours did, leaving you with an extra week of hotel costs. Douchebag. In fact I’d make this a stipulation in the Promesa de Compraventa.
  • A (good?) site for finding real estate in Chile is PortalInmobiliari0.com. They have a decent selection of various properties, and the prices are not gringo-inflated (ie the locals use it to find what they are seeking).